While everyone is focused on how to deal with the impending government takeover of healthcare, we must continue to battle the forces of big-government in Congress. Yesterday, in another display of venerable bipartisanship, leaders from both parties agreed to roll the $120 billion Democrat highway bill, subsidies to fuel the Big Education bubble, and a 5-year extension of government-run flood insurance into one omnibus bill, H.R. 4348.
The House and Senate plan to vote on the bill tomorrow. We’ll be keeping score.
Just to rehash some of the main points, here are 10 reasons why conservatives must oppose this bill:
1) Highway Trust Fund: This bill creates a permanent framework that vitiates the integrity of the highway trust fund as a pay-as-you-go system. Instead of pegging spending to the gas tax revenue, it relies on a patchwork of tenuous and extraneous offsets that have nothing to do with highway spending. The bill authorizes $15 billion more in annual spending than annual revenues. This will set the stage for a future bailout that will be larger than the $35 billion bailout in 2008.
2) Inefficient Infrastructure Policy: This bill continues the inane policy of sending every state’s gas tax money to Washington only to see 35% of it spent on waste and mass transit. There’s no reason why states should have to hire lobbyists to beg for pork for every last road project when every state has such diverse transportation needs.
3) Fueling the student loan bubble: The bill is supposed to extend the Pelosi-era subsidized interest rates on Stafford student loans for just another year, but we all know that Congress will never have the guts to deny future extensions. We’ve seen that with all the other “temporary” stimulus programs in recent years. This will ensure that Democrat cronies in Big Education are never incentivized to slow the rate of increase for college tuition. This is an anathema to free market policy.
4) GOP Pledge: In the 2010 GOP Pledge to America, they promised the following: “We will end the practice of packaging unpopular bills with “must-pass” legislation to circumvent the will of the American people. Instead, we will advance major legislation one issue at a time.” The idea that we are going to package a major 27-month transportation bill with a 5-year flood insurance extension and a one year extension of subsidized student loans under the guise of “must pass – or else,” is an anathema to the pledge.
5) 72-Hour Rule: For the millionth time, Republicans would be violating their pledge not to vote on legislation that has been posted for less than 72 hours. They always excuse their violation by rationalizing that these are “must pass” bills. Well, it’s precisely the “must pass” bills that require more public transparency. The dog catcher suspension bills don’t need a 72 hour rule.
6) Stimulus: Republicans are buying into the Obama/Keynesian notion that government spending will stimulate the economy and create jobs. Let’s be clear: there are some legitimate functions of government; although, transportation should be funded by states. However, we should implement those policies because there is a need for them, not because they create jobs. By definition, government cannot create an artificial need for a job.
7) Keystone: A provision to approve the pipeline should never have been an excuse to vote for a bad bill, but it is amusing to see that the one provision that was supposed to be inviolate is now gone.
8) Pension Fund Bailouts: The provision of the bill that allows corporations to put less money into company pensions that are backed by the taxpayer-funded Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) will expose taxpayers to future bailouts of the PBGC when it becomes clear that the pension plans are underfunded. [read more on this at the Heritage Foundation].
9) Balanced Budgets: When speaking of balanced budgets in the abstract, every Republican says definitively that they are in favor of a balanced budget. Yet, when presented with a specific opportunity to limit the scope of the federal government, they always have an excuse for reauthorizing federal overreach. If we don’t limit the federal government’s control over things like education and transportation policy, we will never balance the federal budget. Nor will we ever shrink the size of government.
10) Tax Hike: From the Senate Finance Committee: “Under current law, there is a disparity in the tax treatment of cigarette tobacco and pipe tobacco. This creates a loophole for in-store roll-your-own cigarette machines to avoid the standard cigarette tax by improperly labeling a product as pipe tobacco. The proposal would expand the definition of a tobacco manufacturer to include businesses operating a roll-your-own machine. As such, the machine’s owner would be responsible for federal excise taxes on the tobacco products manufactured using his or her machine.”
No supporter of limited government, federalism, or free markets can vote for this omnibus.